Dog-Fighting Ban in Costa Rica Moving Through Legislature

| by Phyllis M Daugherty

Owning, breeding, selling or buying dogs for fighting soon will be prohibited in Costa Rica, based upon the Assembly Agricultural Affairs Commission's unanimous approval this week of a motion to draft comprehensive legislation to ban dog fights.

Bill 18,443 aims to prohibit dog fights across the country, as well as any private or public event that may cause aggression, abuse or injury to canines. The bill now must be approved by the full Assembly.

If approved, the bill would include prison sentences of up to three years for those convicted of injuring or causing a dog's death.

"It's not just fights [we're worried about]," Dr. Laura Loaiza, director of the Small Species Wellness Program at the Animal Health Service (SENASA), told Tico Times. "We've received reports of groups of people who organize races in which dogs are forced to drag chains, tires, anvils and other heavy objects."

Johanna Rueda, director of Costa Rica's American Stafford Association, said they have received complaints of "pole jump" competitions, in which dogs are induced to jump and hang on to a piece of meat for several minutes.

The competition injures dogs' jaws, legs, joints and hips, including when they release the meat and fall to the floor.

These grueling events — along with weight-pulling exhibitions — are often held in public locations such as La Sabana Park in western San José, and La Paz Park, south of the capital, Loaiza said.

SENASA is preparing a list of all physical characteristics of dogs that will be regulated and whose owners will be required to obtain dog licenses from that agency.

An earlier version of the bill cited specific dog breeds, but SENASA recommended the list be replaced by a list of physical characteristics, because "it is unfair to label a dog breed as dangerous."

Owners of dogs with these characteristics will be required to obtain a license from SENASA, as the bill stipulates that breeding, selling and buying them will be prohibited.

Applicants will be required to demonstrate they are suitable for owning these types of dogs.

Dog owners found guilty of maltreatment, injuring or causing the death of their animals could face sentences of up to three years in prison, according to the proposed legislation.

Article 16 of the bill states that violators could be fined up to 50 professional-base salaries, the equivalent of ₡28 million ($56,200).

The bill also would ban the possession or distribution of material related to dog fights, except when used for educational campaigns.

Other provisions would prohibit the sale, importation and use of substances for the purpose of physically conditioning a dog for fighting.

The bill now must be approved in two separate considerations by the Legislative Assembly.


SENASA and American Stafford Costa Rica have already developed posters warning of the punishment for mistreatment and injuries caused by cruel practices such as weight pulling or pole jump competitions, which — like dog fighting — often involve gambling.


SENASA has a hotline to report dog abuse, at 2260-8300 or by email: [email protected].

Legislation also punishes mistreatments and injures caused by practices like weight pulling or pole jump competitions. Courtesy of American Stafford Costa Rica.

Source: Tico Times